What Are Demes Ancient Greece?

Demes were an integral part of the ancient Greek political system. They were the basic unit of the Athenian democracy, which was founded around 508 BCE.

Demes were geographical subdivisions of Attica, the region in which Athens was located. Each deme had its own council, officials, and laws.

What were demes?

Demes were essentially local communities that had a degree of autonomy within the larger city-state of Athens. There were over 130 demes in Attica, each with its own distinct identity and character. Some demes were urban and densely populated, while others were rural and sparsely populated.

How did demes function?

Each deme had its own council, known as a boule, which was responsible for administering local affairs. The boule was composed of a set number of members who served for a defined period of time. Members of the boule were selected by lot from among eligible citizens.

The boule had a variety of responsibilities, including collecting taxes, maintaining public works such as roads and bridges, organizing festivals and religious ceremonies, and overseeing local courts.

What was the role of demes in Athenian democracy?

Demes played an important role in Athenian democracy. They served as the basis for both political representation and military organization.

Each deme sent one representative to the Athenian assembly, which was responsible for making important decisions about war and peace, alliances with other city-states, and domestic policies. These representatives helped to ensure that all regions of Attica had a voice in government.

In addition to their political role, demes also played an important role in military organization. Each deme was responsible for providing soldiers to serve in the Athenian army during times of war.


Demes were an essential element of ancient Greek political organization. They provided a way for local communities to have a voice in government and played a key role in military organization. Understanding the role of demes is crucial to understanding the functioning of Athenian democracy and the broader political landscape of ancient Greece.